Monday, 24 June 2013
Hodgman, Hon. William Michael, AM, QC
It is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death on 19 June this year of William Michael Hodgman AM QC, a former minister and member of the House of Representatives from the division of Denison, Tasmania, from 1975 to 1987. I am sure senators will understand when I say that, in his latter life in the Tasmanian parliament, he was Her Majesty's loyal shadow Attorney-General. I call on the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
By leave—I move:
That the Senate record its deep regret at the death on 19 June 2013 of the Hon. William Michael Hodgman AM QC, former minister and member for Denison, and place on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
All senators will mourn the loss of Michael Hodgman who passed away on 19 June at the age of 74. Mr Hodgman was one of the most colourful figures in Australian politics. There are many parliamentarians who have served the public in both a state parliament as well as in the federal parliament. Senators Singh, Bob Carr, Thorpe, Rhiannon and Xenophon are just some recent examples of that. Michael Hodgman, however, went one better. Over five decades in politics he had two careers in state parliament, separated by a period in the federal parliament. He served the Tasmanian Legislative Council as the member for Huon from 1966 to 1974. He was then elected to the federal seat of Denison on the second attempt in 1975. He held that seat until his defeat in 1987. I had the good fortune, as a very junior woodchuck staffer, to occasionally bump into Mr Hodgman as he strode around Old Parliament House, and 'colourful' is absolutely an appropriate term that ascribes Mr Hodgman. He was very self-deprecating and he always enjoyed a laugh.
In 1992 he was elected as the member for Denison in the Tasmanian House of Assembly and held that position until 1998. He regained that seat in 2001 and held it until his retirement in 2010. There are many cases where politics has been a family business—the Downers, the Anthonys, the Creans, the McClellands and the Fergusons, to name just a few. The Hodgman family has equally distinguished itself in public service in Australian parliaments. Michael Hodgman's father, William, also served in both houses of the Tasmanian parliament. His brother succeeded him in the seat of Huon and, more recently, Michael Hodgman's son, Will, served in the same parliament.
It is somewhat astounding that a person with such a long and distinguished political career found time for anything else. Michael Hodgman was not only a politician but also a barrister, a sailor, a boxer, a horseman, a punter and a player. As a barrister he appeared before the High Court as well as representing some of Australia's most notorious criminals. Federal Court Judge Duncan Kerr won the federal seat of Denison from Mr Hodgman in 1987 and said:
Michael was blunt, outspoken, fair, funny, and, despite our two fiercely fought campaigns, my friend.
He was an outstanding advocate who gave freely of his skills on a pro-bono basis to appear in some of the most difficult cases before the courts.
As a gentleman jockey, unpaid, and a boxer, Mr Hodgman added to his collection of tales which he shared with all and sundry. All of us who pursue a career in politics understand that a part of the process of seeking to represent our fellow Australians is the need to build a public profile. Few have achieved that as successfully as Michael Hodgman. He was the most recognisable person in Tasmania for decades.
In his time in Canberra he came to be known, in the most affectionate of ways, as the 'Mouth from the South'. On one famous occasion, as minister for territories, he responded to a question from Bob Katter, then a Nat, in a way that was described by Mungo McCallum as 'screaming adjectives like a maddened thesaurus'. As a politician Mr Hodgman was a complex mix of conservative and genuine liberal. He was a staunch monarchist in regard to Australia and also a supporter of independence for East Timor long before it was popular.
I extend my sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. His life was a full one and we in political life appreciated the time he shared with us. He will be remembered as a great contributor to his state and to the nation, and he goes to his grave holding a secret that many of us have always wanted to know—who was Chickenman?
Today we salute the life and contribution of the irrepressible, the honourable William Michael Hodgman AM, QC to public life. He was a true Tasmanian patriot and a true Australian patriot. His commitment to Queen and country was unparalleled. His loyal toasts will never be surpassed for fervour or passion, and his love of our Australian flag was never left in doubt. So today, as a mark of respect and personal affection—but I hasten to add, as a one-off—I have felt it appropriate to emulate his passion for the flag. If Michael had his way we would not be mourning his passing with a condolence motion but, rather, would be celebrating a full life lived at 100 miles an hour with a motion of thanksgiving.
'Irrepressible' is one descriptor of the many in the avalanche of adjectives employed in seeking to described the indescribable character that is, or was, Michael Hodgman. I have chosen 'irrepressible' to describe the unique, dynamic and hyperactive life of Michael Hodgman. His irrepressibility was no more on display than when Michael was diagnosed with a cruel disease that was ultimately to claim him. On receiving his diagnosis he remarked to his brother, Peter:
I've got bad news and good news. The bad news is I'm going to die. The good news is—not yet.
The diagnosis was not good—three years. Here we are, 14 years after that diagnosis, paying tribute to his life. There is no doubt that he willed his life to that extra decade, such was his dogged determination and commitment when he set his mind to something.
It is one of the ironies of life that a man who was never short of a word, dubbed the 'Mouth from the South', was so cruelly taken from us by a disease that slowly robbed him of his breath. His slow deterioration was fought with courage and absolute determination. Even when I last saw him, with oxygen bottle in tow and in a wheelchair, he did not complain about his lot in life. He was positive about the future, the Liberal Party, the next state and federal elections, the monarchy, the flag and the mighty Cats—although they did let him down yesterday. His positive outlook on everything was infectious, inspiring and a lesson for all of us. He was seriously irrepressible.
Michael was a man who could walk with princes and mix with genuine ease at the local RSL or pub. His was a life lived to the full. He jammed into 74 years what would normally take centuries of human endeavour. His involvements and patronages were legendary. While the MLC for the seat of Huon in Tasmania's upper house, which he won at the age of 26, he was made a life member of the wharfies union, or the Maritime Union of Australia, at Port Huon. In his bid for the federal seat of Denison he spoke out against the compulsory trade unionism and 'no ticket, no start' which shamefully operated on building sites. He made himself available to work as a builder's labourer, discarding his barrister's wig and gown for overalls.
As a lawyer, he was a laughing Rumpole. In front of a jury, he was unbeatable. His oratory, his wit, his sharp mind and disarming charm all combined to make him the criminal barrister, or should I say the barrister practising in criminal law, of his era. Like his father before him, who was similarly skilled, he was without peer. While magistrates and appeal courts were not as fond, juries were spellbound by his presentations. I recall personally briefing him on a matter. Despite repeated promises to meet with the accused, who was on remand, no meeting took place. On the day of the trial I observed the Crown papers were still in pristine condition, completely unopened and unread, which became cringingly obvious during the first day of the hearing, but there was no embarrassment for our Michael. I noticed how he speed-read the papers as the jury were being sworn and during the first day of the trial. Suffice to say, that first day I thought I could have done a better job. The second day was not quite as bad; on the third day we made some headway; and on the fourth day the jury acquitted. Of course, it was always a foregone conclusion to Michael: 'My boy, we were always going to win' rings in my ears, with that smile and glint in his eye. He was always one who was at his best when flying by the seat of his pants.
His appeals were not always as successful, including the one which he started by tendering a photo of the prisoner to the full bench with the words: 'This picture is not that of a criminal.' The appeals bench was not amused. His client was absolutely impressed and became a devotee for life, but not in that sense. Among the profession, we thought he engaged in these displays to ensure the bench unanimously campaigned for his re-election, as they would prefer to see him on the TV as a parliamentary representative rather than as a legal representative in their court room!
His legal skills and capacity were recognised by his vice-presidency of the Bar Association in Tasmania and his being appointed one of Her Majesty's Counsel in 1984. Such was his reputation and the respect for him that, if Michael Hodgman lost something, something was clearly wrong. I recall that the only complaint I ever had made against me to the Law Society of Tasmania was by one of Michael's clients, who was so affronted by the fact that a young whippersnapper lawyer got the better of him in a particular case—how on earth could that be allowed by the Law Society! But, more seriously, he was of the old guard. Pay him if you could; if you could not, he would catch up with you later—no drama.
I personally had the privilege of knowing Michael for nigh on 40 years, first through student political involvement, then as a fellow lawyer, his electorate chair and a fellow parliamentarian. As his electorate chair in the Liberal Party structure for a number of years, I was impressed by the huge number of nonmembers he was able to corral for letterboxing, erecting posters and booth-manning. His electorate involvement was highlighted in the death notices: the Baltic states—he rightly campaigned against their shameful incorporation into the Soviet empire by that weaselly Whitlam diplomatic jargon-du-jour recognition. He was recognised by the Polish Club, the Tasmanian Racing Club, the Hobart Greyhound Racing Club, the Carbine club, the Glenorchy RSL, the Tasmanian hospitality industry, even Senator Bushby's beloved North Melbourne Football Club, the New Town Senior Citizens Club and of course, above all, by his beloved Royal Australian Naval Reserve, whose uniform he wore with great pride. And that is just to name a few of his interests. For him as a member of parliament, three functions a night was an absolute minimum.
In politics he said what he meant. He was pro-life, he was pro the monarchy, he was pro the Federation, he was pro the flag, he was pro-independence for East Timor—another Whitlam government foreign affairs debacle—and, above all, he was staunchly anti-communist. His maiden speech was a full-blown attack on the ALP for its behaviour after the Dismissal, recalling he was elected in 1975. He got stuck into the Labor Party for boycotting the Governor-General's opening of the parliament but then emerging for the lamingtons and cream puffs afterwards. He suggested the day be remembered as 'Lamingtons and Sour Grapes Day'. He spoke of his passionate belief that federalism was the answer to any attempted socialist republican takeover. I hope Michael was able to put in a postal ballot for the upcoming referendum.
It looks as though Labor's obsession with Building the Education Revolution is nothing new. He recounted in his first speech how in Denison two science laboratories were funded by the Commonwealth at two schools only 14 miles apart, but between the two schools there was only one science teacher. It seems history does repeat itself. Having condemned the then worst government in Australian history, he recounted the unemployment rate of 6.8 per cent in his home state of Tasmania. How Tasmanians wish our unemployment rate were there now, instead of having a seven in front of the figure. Having berated the previous government non-stop and drawing the ire of one Paul Keating, he disarmingly told the House: 'I honestly did not want to make a maiden speech in which I made an attack on the previous government.'
His time as a minister, Minister for the ACT and minister assisting the minister for industry, with Phillip Lynch, was clearly the highlight of his career personally. Before self-government, the Minister for the ACT was like a benevolent dictator, signing ordinances at will—like moving on demonstrators, designed of course to genuinely allow others the opportunity should they wish to occupy the space. He was surprised to learn that some, if not all, feminists hated him. He had just stopped Women Against Rape marching on Anzac Day through some obscure traffic ordnance. His response: 'I never said that extremist feminist groups, including Marxist lesbians, planned to disrupt the Anzac Day march. I merely said I had heard reports of their plans.'
Michael Hodgman was described as the type of parliamentarian for whom leaders publicly profess admiration but whom they privately abhor—a type often approved of by Australian voters. There is no doubt that Michael was overwhelmingly approved of by the Australian people. He was described as a mischievous political show pony by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; but you will be pleased to know that that was way back in 1978 when somebody else held that post—namely, Senator Ken Wriedt.
Controversy and publicity were always courting Michael, or was it the other way around? It was difficult to tell, but the three were always in a strong embrace. In state politics his stoushes with the Labor Attorney-General were high entertainment. Her Majesty's loyal shadow Attorney-General for the state of Tasmania, to whom you referred, Deputy President, could so bait the then Tasmanian Attorney-General she was once reduced to saying she simply hated Hodgmans. The Greens leader at the time, who now leads the Greens in this place, was dubbed 'Christine and the Crazies'.
Apart from his active and capable advocacy on the issues of the day, he was a dab hand at achieving things for Tasmania and his seat of Tasmania: the Antarctic Division, the national marine science and research centre, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the Commonwealth law courts complex, the second Hobart bridge, the Christchurch to Hobart air link. Whenever he was accused of pork-barrelling he would simply clip the Hansard or the media story and ensure that it was circulated in Tasmania.
His passion and principle saw him cross the floor and be outspoken, but he could switch instantaneously from serious to fun. His sense of fun saw him convince the cabin staff on an airliner that his fast-asleep travel companion was in fact his mentally defective brother and to provide him with a colouring-in set should he awake. As he awoke, the member for Franklin could not quite come to grips with why a very sensitive stewardess was offering him a colouring-in set. Another time a colleague had got the better of Michael, so Michael drafted a media release, waltzed around to the colleague's office, slammed it on his desk and said that he at least was giving the colleague the courtesy of knowing exactly what he had said about him. The mortified colleague braced himself for the next day's papers, only to find that it was just a hoax.
He loved sport. Be it racing—horses and dogs—tennis, sailing, boxing or football he was into it. As past president of the Geelong Football Club Frank Costa told me last week, Michael would ring him every year with a Hodgman slogan for the Cats for that particular year. The one that Mr Costa recalled was '2007 will be Cats heaven'. Regrettably, no slogan was offered for 2013.
It seems that everyone has a Hodgman story. He was a friend to all. No person or issue was of insufficient importance to be denied representation. He loved our flag, our monarchy, our Constitution and our institutions. He loved the Liberal Party, of which he was made a life member. He loved the jury system and the parliament. He loved his family. He loved life and lived it to the fullest. But above all he loved people, and he served them with distinction. The coalition mourns his passing and salutes his tireless service to our nation and its enduring symbols and institutions and to his state of Tasmania. The coalition extends our condolences to his family, knowing the best tribute we could pay Michael is by dedicating ourselves to the election of his son, Will, as a premier of a majority government of Tasmania on 14 March 2014.
Normally one would conclude a speech such as this with the words 'May he rest in peace'. I confess I have trouble visualising 'rest in peace' and Michael Hodgman. I suspect he has already discovered a gross injustice against which he is advocating before the ultimate judge. I will conclude with the words recorded in the Hansard of Michael Hodgman's last speech, which he finished as he finished most of his later speeches: God save the Queen!
Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I just wanted to take a few moments to offer my own words of tribute to my late friend Michael Hodgman, a member of the Order of Australia and one of Her Majesty's counsel learned in the law.
Michael Hodgman gave great service to the people of Tasmania and to the people of Australia in a parliamentary career that began almost half a century ago, in 1966, and ended as recently as 2010. During the course of that career he served in three parliamentary chambers: first in the Tasmanian Legislative Council, then as a member of the House of Representatives and ultimately as a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly. As a member of the House of Representatives he served as a minister in the Fraser government.
It is hard, in this day and age, quite to grasp the extent of Michael Hodgman's courtly charm, because it was almost of another age. He was a man of rare eloquence, who could just as easily have been imagined as a cavalier in the 17th century or, indeed, as an Elizabethan courtier in the 16th century. The last time I saw him, at the Tasmanian Club a few years ago—we were having a drink, it will not surprise you to learn, Mr Deputy President—I thought to myself, looking at Michael's rather rubicund complexion and engaging him on the issues of the day, 'The founding fathers were probably just like this.' He was a parliamentarian through and through. He was passionate about the causes that he championed. He was a Liberal in the truest and best sense of the word, and a great upholder of traditions. My leader, Senator Abetz, has referred to his passionate commitment to the federal system, to the constitutional monarchy and to the flag. In his very last parliamentary job he sat on his son's opposition front bench as the shadow Attorney-General, and, in a way that only Michael Hodgman could do, he endorsed his business cards, 'Her Majesty's loyal shadow Attorney-General for the state of Tasmania.'
He was, in many ways, to Tasmania, what his great friend and boon companion in the seventies and early eighties, Sir James Killen, was to Queensland. They were very much of a piece. They were the sort of parliamentarians who practiced a political style in which eloquence in the parliamentary chamber was the great value. They were not glib. They did not engage in what are today called sound bites or grabs for the six o'clock news. They addressed the House of Representatives with an eloquence and in the grand manner with which Fox, Sheridan or Burke would have addressed the House of Commons two centuries before. I doubt we will see their like again.
Michael Hodgman was a very great Australian. He was a great friend to all who knew him. It is my privilege to number his son, Will Hodgman, among my friends. In regretting the passing of this extraordinary man, and celebrating such a rich life, I join with Senator Abetz in observing that the best tribute that there could possibly be to the beloved memory of Michael Hodgman would be the election of his son, Will, as the next premier of Tasmania.
I rise today to extend my condolence to the family of Michael Hodgman and to make just a few remarks. I only knew Michael in a parliamentary capacity when he returned to the Tasmanian House of Assembly having finished his career in the legislative council, then in the federal parliament.
I agree with Senator Brandis saying that he was like a person of another age. In many ways, that is the case. He never could come to terms with women's rights, he could never come to terms with gay rights, and he struggled with many of the conservation issues of the day. I have to say that, in terms of the campaign for gay law reform in Tasmania, he was one of the people who were staunchly opposed to it.
His oratory at the time I will never forget because, in the Parliament of Tasmania, when I was speaking for decriminalisation of homosexuality—at that time you could be jailed for 21 years in Tasmania for being homosexual—Michael Hodgman got up and called me 'the mother of teenage sodomy'. Michael did it with great rhetorical flourish and it ended up on the five to eight news the following day.
Michael was quite capable of using such flourishes and did so on many occasions, which of course had earned him the reputation as the 'mouth from the south' when he had been in the federal parliament. But the remarks that Senator Abetz made earlier, in relation to a march on Anzac Day, go to similar sorts of remarks.
Having said that, he was quite a colourful character in the Tasmanian parliament. He had a number of uniforms behind the door in his office. One was a boxing referee's uniform; another was his naval uniform. Sometimes he would come into the parliament on the adjournment, obviously going to another function somewhere—he was well known for attending as many functions as he could in one day—wearing his naval uniform or the boxing referee uniform, which was of considerable amusement to colleagues in the parliament.
One of his greatest disappointments, while I was in the Tasmanian parliament, was that he expected to be the Speaker in the Liberal government in the mid-1990s. He had sent away for the full wig. This is in the context of saying that he was of a bygone era—he saw himself in the chair, not with just a small wig but with the whole wig. That was what Michael was expecting. Actually, the Liberal Party betrayed him at that time and he did not become Speaker. I think that was probably one of his great disappointments during that period in parliament.
He had in his office a framed photograph of Her Majesty the Queen and a framed photograph of the Pope. On many occasions he would refer to either or both in terms of the context of whatever speech he was making. Towards his later years he would resort to stories about Norton the cat. If any of you have heard Michael on that subject, you would know that Norton became a major focus of some of his speeches in the latter days.
But I have to say that he was also working at representing people in the courts while he was in the parliament in later years. One of his most famous actions in recent times was to become Chopper Read's best man. When Chopper Read was married, in the Tasmanian parliament Michael was his best man, and it is reputed that he told Chopper Read that getting married was one of the best ways to earn his release from Risdon Prison. I do not know if that is the case; that is reputed to be what Michael's advice to Chopper Read was at that time.
However, I knew him not only as a parliamentarian but also, as has been referred to, as a gentleman jockey. He had made many friends in the Tasmanian racing community and also in the riding community generally. One of his great friends, Geoff Cox, had a property, Springbanks, at Longford
Michael was a very great friend to Geoff in the years that Geoff's health was deteriorating. After Geoff's death, Michael also was very supportive of his widow, Alison, and I saw in those years the kind of loyalty and friendship that Michael had with the people with whom he had enjoyed many recreational pursuits as well as had strong philosophical differences. Geoff Cox had become a Green, much to Michael's horror, and so Geoff used to write on the gate, when Michael was coming to visit, 'Milne' on one side and 'Brown' on the other; that would inspire Michael and Geoff to quite a degree of debate. But I have to acknowledge that the other side of Michael I saw in that period was the tremendous respect and effort he put into maintaining friendships and supporting the people who had supported and worked with him.
In addition to the uniforms he had behind the door—and people have referred to his love of the monarchy and, of course, the flag—he had a flag tie that he used to wear on significant occasions when it was warranted. He was a man of a different era in terms of many of the causes which he espoused. He was one for great flourish in terms of rhetoric. In spite of the insults which he dished out on regular occasions to his political opponents, he was funny and he was fair on most occasions. Whilst he was extremely critical and insulting, it was not of the nasty and rude variety. There was always some sort of flourish or laugh associated with the kinds of engagement that he entered into in the parliament.
I was sorry to see the deterioration in his health in recent times as he struggled with emphysema. I met him around Hobart on various occasions. He always met people with a smile and a joke. That is the thing that I will remember most about Michael—that he was a man who acknowledged everybody in the same way, and treated people equally, when he saw them in the street. He always had time to say hello, pass the time of day and smile, and he was proud to be a Tasmanian. He always spoke strongly about our state and the people in it. There is no doubt that he stayed alive as long as he did, as has been said, because he was hoping to be alive for next year's state election. That has not occurred; nevertheless, I am sure people will remember him in that context next year.
I rise to make my contribution in tribute to the life of Michael Hodgman AM QC—Michael, to most people. Senator Abetz chose an adjective to describe Michael. I have to say I really struggled because I am not sure that there is anything quite bold enough to do the job. He will be described in many ways for his colourful life, but he was, as Senator Milne just said, one of those people who always had a warm and hearty greeting for you. You always got the impression that he was pleased to see you, whether he was or not, even on the telephone.
I recall, when I was state president of the Tasmanian Liberal Party, being instructed by the state executive to have a conversation with Michael about how long he might remain in the Tasmanian parliament. There was some discussion about the fact that we might start a process of renewal. So good is the Tasmanian Liberal Party—like most others—at holding secrets that, when I rang Michael, I found that Michael knew I was coming. It is fair to say the conversation did not go well from my perspective. He was ready for me. He had every turn of phrase that he might have needed at hand, ready to run me with. Let's say it was fruitless. But the next time I met Michael he quickly discussed the conversation, and then we moved on. Michael had his reasons for doing what he wanted to do, and I have to say that, at the end of the day, those reasons proved to be sound and correct, and he achieved his objective. He finally decided to call it quits himself on his career in 2010.
The fact that he spent 44 years of his life in public service demonstrates how proud he was of the roles that he undertook—in the Tasmanian upper house; in the federal parliament, in the House of Representatives; and in the Tasmanian lower house—and the fact that he saw public service as a positive duty, as a responsibility. He engaged with everybody in that context, as has been said here in the chamber. Whether in the front bar at the pub, in the RSL club, in the boxing ring as a referee, or here in the parliament, he always knew his place and his part and played that to the full. He was passionate about all of those roles.
He loved his family. A mention of his grandchildren would see him dive into his jacket pocket and pull out a wad of photographs to proudly display to you the progress of all the grandchildren. He was immensely proud of his son, Will, who, as we have discussed here today, is the leader of the opposition in Tasmania. I know that one of the things he would have liked to do was to see Will become Premier of Tasmania. I hope that that comes to pass in March next year. But I know he would have absolutely loved to have been able to hang out long enough to see that occur.
Within the Liberal Party organisation, he was also a really strong advocate for branches and the roles of branches. I recall, at the end of one of our three-day state councils one year, the time was one minute to 12. Everybody in the room looked as though they were ready to go home, because the council was to finish at 12 o'clock. So, as chair, I made the decision that we would not go onto the next motion. From recollection, it was about whether the Tasmanian native bird emblem should be changed. Michael was so affronted that one of the local branches which had taken the time to put a motion up to state council should lose their opportunity to have that motion debated, regardless of what it was, he roared into life. He said he did not care what kind of bird it was. He gave a very graphic example of a bird, which I will not give here today—but I could perhaps talk to people about it in private—because I do not think it appropriate to describe it in this context. You would not get away with it today. Needless to say, I surrendered. The council went on to debate whether or not the native bird emblem of Tasmania would be changed, and duly decided it would not, but the branch had had its opportunity to have its say, and that is what was important to Michael.
He was a fierce and fearful opponent, but at the end of the day he would come and have a beer with you. To see and hear of him passing of emphysema is a really tragic end to a vital, full and colourful life. My grandfather succumbed to the same disease and it is a cruel way to die. The fact that the dreaded smokes got Michael in the end is a real tragedy for all of us.
I want to make mention, and I have to a certain extent, of his passions. He loved his family, and I have said that, but he also loved his community. Senator Abetz talked about it. It was about the people. It did not matter who you were or where you were, his representation of people—legally, on a pro bono basis—is something that most people, who know Michael, know of. He loved his state. Reading through the notes that were prepared by the Parliamentary Library he talked about one thing that Tasmanians hated: people in Canberra making decisions about what should happen in Tasmania. I know that he felt that very strongly.
He also loved his country and was a strong believer in federalism. He loved his Queen. As Senator Brandis mentioned earlier, I am not sure I know anybody who could make an opposition position sound more important than the job in government. Her Majesty's loyal shadow Attorney-General was how he described himself, with great colour and flourish, and it sounded as though he was more important than the Attorney-General of the state of Tasmania. I am sure that is one of the things that irritated the Attorney in the battles they had across the chamber. And he loved the flag. We have heard the discussion about his passion for the flag and the ties that he wore in relation to that.
There was once a debate about replacing the lion on the Tasmanian flag with a Cape Barren goose. That suggestion was made by one of his Tasmanian parliamentary Liberal colleagues, the hard-working member for Lyons, Bob Mainwaring. Yes, the introduction takes us back. There was a fierce debate over that—the lion remains but Michael was affronted that somebody could suggest taking the lion off the Tasmanian flag in the first place, let alone replacing it with a Cape Barren goose.
It is appropriate that we celebrate Michael's life. He was a great pleasure to know. He was a great source of pride for his family and, as Senator Abetz said, he was known widely and broadly. I would like to join with others in expressing my sincere condolences to Lindy, his wife, and to Will and other members of the family. I just hope that Will does do what Michael hoped he would do—reach the premiership of Tasmania. But my sincere condolences to all of the Hodgman family. They have lost a great contributor to the Tasmanian community but also a great family member.
I too rise to mark my respect on the passing of one of Tasmania's greatest modern-era politicians, certainly one of the highest profile and best known to come out of Tasmania: past federal minister the Hon. Michael Hodgman AM QC.
I have been involved with the Liberal Party, both through family and personally, since I was a small child, going back to the early 1970s. Michael's presence and gravitas loomed large in the party throughout that time. As a party office holder and as chief-of-staff to the then opposition leader, I worked closely with him when he was in state parliament. I was the beneficiary of his advice on many occasions, both before entering the Senate and since, and will genuinely miss the occasional whispered suggestion or the quiet phone call or the well-argued public exhortation to action.
Michael was undoubtedly one of the greatest Australian political orators in the past half-century. He was a brilliant people-person and someone who always had time for everyone. When they made Michael Hodgman they broke the mould. There is much that can be said of Michael: his time in public office; his passion for Tasmania, Hobart, regional Australia and the law; his antics, stunts and legendary rhetoric; and his loyalty to our sovereign, Her Majesty, the Queen of Australia. Michael spent 44 years in the service of his fellow Tasmanians and of Australians, 35 of those years in parliamentary service. Michael was, at the time of his retirement, the longest-serving member of any Australian parliament. He was first elected in 1956 as an independent member of Tasmania's upper house, the Legislative Council, for the seat of Huon. He was re-elected, unopposed, in 1972.
Michael resigned in 1974 and was elected Liberal federal member for Denison in 1975, at a time when the Liberal Party achieved a clean sweep of all five Tasmanian federal electorates. He was then re-elected in 1977, 1980, 1983 and 1984 before being defeated in 1987 following an unfavourable redistribution of electoral boundaries. During this time he served as a minister in the Fraser coalition government. After one further unsuccessful shot at the federal seat of Denison in 1990, Michael decided to run for state parliament and in 1992 he was elected as the member for the state seat of Denison in the Tasmanian House of Assembly, a position that he successfully defended in the 1996 state election. He was subsequently a victim of the decrease in the size of the state parliament in 1998 but came back in again on a count-back in 2001 following the retirement of former state premier Ray Groom. He was then re-elected in 2002 and again in 2006.
Michael's impact has extended far beyond the boundaries of my great home state, however. Indeed, there are very few political observers across Australia who are not aware of Michael's work, his oratory and his passion for Australia and for its sovereign. Michael Hodgman was a politician of the old school and his time in politics saw him part of a momentous period in Australian history. He has known many of our nation and, for that matter, the world's leaders. Most famously, his oratorical skills combined with his strong parochial views earned him the title we have already heard this afternoon: 'the mouth from the south'. He had an incredible memory—an amazing ability to recall people's names, their backgrounds and issues that they might have brought up with him years earlier.
Whether it was his passion for the horses, his beloved football club, Geelong, the Navy, boxing or tennis, Michael always led an active and engaging life. He was a champion of many causes. He was resolute about the Indonesian presence in East Timor, to the detriment of his own career advancement in the Fraser government during the late 1970s. He was one of the first politicians to speak out vehemently against apartheid, when many others were conveniently looking the other way. He fought for the Huon naval base in Hobart, the retention of the historic Anglesea—
Senator Colbeck interjecting—
He certainly did, Senator Colbeck. Unfortunately, in the end it was a rearguard action. He fought for the retention of the historic Anglesea Barracks, the establishment of the Antarctic Division headquarters in Kingston, south of Hobart, and the CSIRO moving to Hobart. At many consecutive Liberal Party state councils, he successfully moved the motion 'that Tasmania should secede'. But he was also proud to be the Minister for the Capital Territory and, in that role, to be involved in the construction of this building and work closely with the chairman of the Parliament House Construction Authority, Sir John Holland.
Michael and his Canberra flatmate, Bruce Goodluck, who held the neighbouring seat of Franklin, were known at the time as 'the odd couple' and were well known nationally for their antics in seeking publicity—and sometimes those antics involved taking the micky out of each other. We heard earlier from Senator Abetz about one of those little tricks that was played by Michael on Bruce on a plane, but the reverse also occurred. Bruce Goodluck told a story where he bought some pink paper, sprinkled it with Chanel No. 5 and wrote on it: 'Dear Mr Hodgman, I have had my eyes on you since you first came to parliament. If you are interested, wear a red carnation. I usually frequent the press boxes.' Of course, the next day Michael was seen frequenting the press gallery boxes and wearing a red carnation.
But, behind the antics, Michael was a very serious and capable political advocate. Governments ignoring the outlying states and the regional seats did so at their peril. Michael was a ferocious fighter for what he believed in, such as tackling the Hawke socialist government, states' rights, East Timorese freedom and immigration. He was known for his pressure on local issues such as speeding up the development of Hobart's southern outlet and lobbying for Hobart's second bridge, as well as international issues, including railing against the Soviet Union.
But, above all, he was best known for fighting for his beloved battlers. Many of Canberra's older residents would remember Michael's reign as Minister for the Capital Territory. At the time he was also known as 'the minister for opening doors', because if there was an opening occurring he would be there. In fact, press coverage at the time sometimes speculated whether Michael actually spent any time away from Canberra. When Michael was Minister for the Capital Territory, his departmental officials found him excellent at raising the profile of Canberra and of promoting the national capital, but sometimes the routine paperwork was neglected. After the ministerial in-tray had grown to the dimensions of a small mountain, one senior public servant, a Mr Dempster, suggested ever-so-mildly to the minister that he might want to deal with some of the submissions. Michael got on very well with Mr Dempster, so much so that he had given him a nickname, and he responded to the suggestion with, 'Look, Hamster, you worry about the paperwork and I'll worry about the politics.' I can clearly remember the notoriety Michael received from his comments that caused the leadership spill, which saw Andrew Peacock take the Liberal leadership from the then leader, John Howard. I am pretty sure that Mr Howard never quite forgave Michael for that.
There were also Michael's own leadership ambitions. At one point, he was widely reported as a potential leader of the Liberal Party and in one ballot finished only 12 votes behind John Howard for deputy leader. Michael was also touted as a potential leader in the Tasmanian parliament, but, despite putting his name forward, this was not to be. He was, however, a shadow state minister and, as we have heard today, he used to refer to his title with great flourish. I believe I still have one of his legendary business cards in which he, quite correctly, describes himself as 'the Hon. Michael Hodgman QC, Her Majesty's loyal shadow Attorney-General for Tasmania'. I imagine it might become a collector's item one day.
There is no doubt that Michael led a colourful career and life. That description is one I repeatedly found when first researching the topic. Even though he was colourful, he was deeply compassionate, seeking to deliver real outcomes from his constituents, for whom he held genuine affection and respect. Michael served Tasmanians and Australians with absolute dedication, often to the detriment of his life and time with the family that he loved deeply. I pass on my sincere condolences to Michael's family, particularly his children, Angela, Tori and Will, and their children. They are all very much entitled to be immensely proud of Michael, his achievements and his contribution to his state and his country. He was truly one of the greats.
I also want to pay my respects to the family of the late Michael Hodgman and to join in the celebration of his life and the things he did for Australia and his state. My involvement with Michael, from the other end of the country back in the eighties, was slightly different to anything that has so far been described by other senators. I always think that loyalty is one of the greatest human qualities. Those who go the extra mile in prosecuting that loyalty, often at significant effort and cost to themselves, should, I think, never be forgotten.
My comments only make some sense if I set the scene of the period in politics in Queensland. It was in the middle to late 1980s, when in Queensland the Liberal and National parties were not quite as close to each other as they are now—of course, nowadays we are one big, happy family. But in those days, when Joh Bjelke-Petersen ruled Queensland as a National Party premier without the involvement or support of the Liberal Party, things were, for those of us in the Liberal Party in Queensland at the time, fairly cold. We often felt that we were friendless.
It was in the 1986 campaign that Bjelke-Petersen, as premier, was campaigning for re-election and was spending a significant amount of his time attacking the Liberal Party rather than the Labor Party. But to aid his campaign he actually had the Liberal Premier of Western Australia at the time, Sir Charles Court, and the Liberal Premier of Tasmania at the time, Robin Gray, come to Queensland and campaign for the National Party against the Liberal Party. So we at times felt quite friendless, particularly in North Queensland, because at the time there was no sitting Liberal member—state or federal—north of the city of Brisbane.
In the north we used to run quite energetic campaigns with very limited resources. We had a group of people who would travel almost to the end of the country to show their loyalty to the Liberal Party and to support the Liberal Party campaign. I mentioned recently in another meeting that Albie Schultz, the current member for Hume, was one of those. We were always delighted in the north when Michael Hodgman and his mates Bruce Goodluck and Max Burr would come to North Queensland.
I remember they came to Townsville on several occasions, once to Cairns and once to Mackay. It was, as Senator Bushby said, at the time that Michael Hodgman and Bruce Goodluck were known as the odd couple. Max Burr came in. They had a name; I think it might have been 'The Three Amigos'. I clearly remember to this day that they came and did an almost burlesque comedy and dance show at what was then the dinner comedy theatre in Townsville. The owners at the time gave us the theatre for the night. These three ran the dinner comedy show as a fundraiser for the Liberal Party. As well as all of Michael's other qualities—which everyone has talked about and on which I, from a knowledge of him, cannot help but agree and agree very strongly—his stage show with Bruce Goodluck and Max Burr was something else. They were great friends when they did not need to be. They had come from the other end of the country just to help their Liberal Party colleagues run election campaigns and try and raise some money. Those days and thoughts, I am sure, are long since gone.
I, for one, and those of us who were involved at that time will never forget the kindness, commitment and loyalty of Michael Hodgman and his two colleagues in what they did for us. It is something that can only be the work of someone who has a deep commitment to the things he believes in and a great loyalty to his causes and the principles and philosophies close to him. I extend my condolences to Will Hodgman, who I know. I do not know the rest of the family but I do extend my condolences to Will and all of his family on the passing of a great Australian.
I also endorse and support the comments made by senators here in the chamber today. I first crossed swords with Michael in the late seventies and early eighties as a prosecution witness when he was a defence counsel. I have had 30-plus years of knowing and enjoying Michael's company since then.
I also endorse our sympathies to Michael's family, in particular his three children and his five grandchildren. I think it is beholden upon us as time marches on that we share our colourful stories about Michael with his grandchildren as we encounter them in years to come.
I ask honourable senators to stand in their places to signify our consent to the motion and, whilst we do that, could I suggest that maybe, if it were quietly playing in the background, God Save Our Queen would be very appropriate.
Question agreed to, honourable senators standing in their places.